A Paris-style attack on a UK workplace: new guidance for Employers

The range of health and safety related legal obligations placed on employers is extensive. Employers have a duty to think about what might cause harm to people and decide whether they are taking reasonable steps to prevent that harm by way of a risk assessment.

Since 29 August 2014, the threat level from international terrorism in the UK has been categorised as severe, meaning an attack is highly likely. Following the Paris attacks, every effort is to be made to enhance security and prevent terrorism.

Last week, the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) and the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) published a joint Guidance Note on how to develop “dynamic lockdown procedures” aimed at businesses and employers. This builds on guidance updated earlier this year on recognising the terrorist threat. This guidance is not compulsory.

According to the Guidance Note, dynamic lockdown is the ability to quickly restrict access and egress to a site or building through physical measures. The objective of planning for dynamic lockdown is to delay the attacker, thereby reducing the number of potential casualties. The guidance recommends that staff responsibilities should be clearly indicated in dynamic lockdown plans. The guidance suggests that it is important that all staff are able to act quickly and effectively, thereby ensuring people know what is expected of them and that businesses should regularly test and exercise plans with staff.

The guidance also states that employers should consider how to let staff know what is happening. The use of fire alarms should be avoided to reduce incorrect response to an incident. Suggested ways of letting people know what is happening include a Public Address system, any existing internal messaging systems, text, email, staff phones, “pop up” messages on employees computers or internal messaging systems and/or a dedicated lockdown alarm tone.

Comment

While there is no statutory duty on employers to address terror threats specifically, there is an obligation to manage the health and safety risks, which includes considering what might cause harm to people.

Compliance with the recommendations in the NaCTSO NPCC Guidance Note is not compulsory. Notwithstanding this, employers may wish to consider how to prepare for dynamic lockdown, particularly if based in major cities which tend to be more vulnerable to such incidents.

For further advice please contact a member of the Employment Team at Devonshires Solicitors LLP.

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